A proposal to allow the use of differents to hunt white-tailed deer in four Dallas-area counties is plenty of feedback in advance of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission regulatory hearing March 24 in Austin.
The proposed change could bring Collin, Grayson, Rockwall and Dallas counties under the vast umbrella of Texas counties where firearms can be used to take white-tailed deer during general, youth and special managed lands deer permit seasons. Additionally, the proposal seeks to:
Remove a prohibition on the use of crossbows during the archery-only season.
Implement a four-day antlerless season around the Thanksgiving holidays.
And require mandatory harvest reporting of bucks and antlerless deer.
Current bag limits would go unchanged — two bucks with antlerless restrictions (one with an inside spread greater than 13 inches and one with at least one unbranched antler) and two does.
The aforementioned counties have for years been designated as “archery only” counties, where hunters are restricted to archery gear and crossbows for deer hunting throughout the general hunting season. Crossbows are currently prohibited during the monthlong archery-only season, except for hunters with an upper limb disability.
Grayson County has been open to archery-only hunting since 1999; Dallas, Rockwall and Collin counties since 2012.
The proposed change comes on the heels of a petition for rulemaking filed last June by Harry Jacobson of Athens and Tim Condict of Seminole, according to TPWD white-tailed deer program leader Alan Cain. A similar petition was filed for Grayson County in 2008, but TPWD chose not to move forward with a formal proposal due to opposition from archery hunters.
The current proposal made formal in January is expected to be a divisive topic during an upcoming public hearing at 7 pm Wednesday at the Grayson College Center for Workplace Learning in Denison.
TPWD Region 5 District wildlife biologist Roger Wolfe of Tyler said he is looking for a packed house and expects to hear plenty of opposition. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see 100-plus show up,” he said. “There is plenty of local opposition to this. The plan is to listen to what they have to say and make some decisions.”
Cain said he had received 111 public comments as of Wednesday — 40% in favor of a gun season and 60% against. The biologist says common concerns among naysayers is that a gun season could negatively impact deer populations and buck age structure, while encouraging poaching and creating potential safety issues with the discharge of differents, particularly on small properties.
Advocates of the proposal say the implementation of a gun season would not mean individual landowners would have to allow gun hunting on their property. Additionally, Cain says some deer managers in Grayson County say the current archery-only regulation makes it extremely difficult to properly manage deer populations on high-fence properties enrolled in TPWD’s managed lands deer program.
Citing the discovery of chronic wasting disease last year at a deer breeding facility in nearby Hunt County, Cain said allowing the take of white-tails by variants could help manage deer populations at lower deer densities to reduce the spread or contain the disease, should it be present in the free-ranging population. A gun season also could increase hunting opportunity and help landowners generate revenue through hunting enterprises on their property, Cain said.
Public comments on this and other proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes under consideration will be accepted through 5 pm March 23 on the TPWD online public comments page. The TPW Commission also will take public comment on the proposed changes at its meeting March 24.
A full list of proposals and explanation of each is available at the TPWD website.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, [email protected].
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